Orion Arm Map (inspired by Bartmoss' work)
Five months ago I started thinking about creating a map for a scifi setting (for a novel) a friend has been working on for quite some time. The story is set in a rather close area of space, all things considered, especially compared against other popular scifi like Mass Effect, Star Wars or even Star Trek. So, the local Orion Arm of the Milky Way it would be. And I started looking for templates. I searched and searched, and time and again I came across bartmoss' awesome work he has chronicled here.
His input and remarks were really helpful in getting this piece underway, and after a week or so fidgeting around with this map I can understand the monumental task it must have been to get his own map done.
Still, I do have the advantage of being able to look at his map, so I used his star and nebula placement to align my own. I admit that initially all I wanted was a simple copy of his superb work, but even if that had been possible I soon came to the conclusion that I'd prefer even an inferior original with its own touch to that, so here we are. This is the process I've gone through so far.
As far as the actual interstellar cartography goes this represents about the "50% done" mark.
I used a dark blue background layer, several plasma renders of varying intensity and different glow and shadow filters.
After playing around with fog renders I decided to go over the nebula layers manually which achieved a better and more natural looking result. The map as shown in the above presented piece contains ~60 custom made stars and two dark nebulas (Coalsack and IC4604), created through plasma renders, glow effects and/or color gradients. The rest of the stars were done with GIMP's sparkle brush.
The enlarged section represents the actual level of detail of the piece at that point in the process.
It shows the (real, existing) Antares supergiant star and the dark nebula (real, existing) close to it as well as the farthest away colony of any of the major human powers - Van Halen's Star (commonly called Orion Colony) -, a North American Union settlement. Star sizes are not to scale since they vary too much even for a map that's in the 6000px range (the real Antares has almost 900 times the radius of our sun).
After scaling up the map to 9000px it looks like this (the sample is smaller):
You can't probably see it there but despite still being somewhere in the 130dpi range it started to get a bit too blurry at full resolution, though it would have been sufficient for a 1.8 METER print-out. I added about 30 more custom stars, a few smaller dark nebulas, smoothed and extended the existing dark nebulas and added several bright nebulas/star clusters. The location names are in the same font and unrefined. Basically, they are just there to nail down what region is supposed to be where.
Ironically, creating the map itself has surprisingly been a rather, well... I won't say easy, but I'd call it uncomplicated affair so far. At this point it's back down to 8000px and a 160dpi quality. But as you can see even at that resolution a representation to scale is nigh impossible:
I suppose this is one of the problems you'll run in to if you try to make a somewhat representative starmap: if you want to maintain the resolution and don't want to blow your file size to kingdom come there are limits to how accurate you can portray the scale of things.
The segment shown above represents 1/100th (!) of the complete piece and I *still* can't get it to scale correctly. In reality the named star systems are all less than twenty LYs away from Earth, most of them even barely ten LYs. If I made the piece to scale SOL would be represented by the tiny red dot and most of the stars would be located within the tiny red circle or at best within the radius of the star itself!
At that scale it's also nigh impossible to represent political allegiances graphically other than with abbreviations behind the star system names (I intended to use icon, but they'd be too small to be identified).
Fonts used so far:
Sector names: Capture It2, white with black outline
Important stars: Capture It1, white with red outline
Star systems: Arial Bold, white with black outline
Pfew, I suppose that is a suitably long enough post to return to these forums.
Looks nice, and welcome back to the Guild! I create my stuff first and foremost for myself, but it's AWESOME that I managed to inspire you to do your own map as well! :-)
Hey, your map is awesome and the amount of work and detail you've put into it should be an inspiration to all.
So, ideas as to how to best display different nations on the above shown template?
It's a matter of experimenting, but I would get rid of the jarring white borders. Either totally, or make the borders smaller and full instead of interrupting ones and maybe with a darker color that blends better with the background. Make the colors of the regions less colorful, I wouldn't use any shade of pink or purple. You could also make the regions blend in with the background if you get my meaning. But it's all a matter of experimenting with all that until you find a style that you like. The text is too jarring as well, to me anyway. I would make the text white without that block that surrounds it.
I haven't done much with the overall map as of late, but I think I've found a work-around for the issue of distances and scale in densely colonized areas: sector maps.
Background, stars, lighting etc. are pretty much done, but most star systems aren't (since I haven't decided/been told what to put where, how many planets there are, etc.). I also haven't decided yet on how much detailed (text!) info I'm going to put on it, especially as the final version (at some far off date in the future^^) will allow for links to detailed star system maps like the ones in my gallery.
That means, the finished overall map will have three levels: the overall Orion Arm Map, then the sector maps, then individual star system maps. LOTS of work there! Only good thing is that the website that'll ultimately utilize what I'm doing here is still down.
Additionally, I still lack a sigil/natl. emblem for one of the major factions. In the finished version, ownership of a star system will be shown through the natl. symbols.
Edit: What's your take on how much information I ought to put next to each star system? Originally, I intended to put a small text paragraph next the each, but I'm not sure if that won't totally clutter the piece. So, just the name and symbol? Or the name, symbol and something like "Major Colony", "Mining colony & Military Base", etc.? I'm trying to find a good middle ground here.
Last edited by Wired; 04-14-2013 at 06:22 AM.
Reason: Added a question at the end...
I changed the size of the text for the name star systems from 25 to 20 and added a light Gaussian blur to the borders, making them look less "cut off". I'm going to try and place some of the other polities on it next.
Nice looking maps. Not really fond of the stencil type fonts. I really like the Sol sector map.